Last Tuesday, Carnegie Learning Center teacher Betsy Alkenbrack had her wallet stolen. She had apparently stepped out of her office, located just off the Learning Center classroom, when a man slipped in and grabbed the wallet.

When the man first walked into the Learning Center, a volunteer monitor, Rick, spotted him and asked if he could help him. The man responded that he was just looking around. That did not cause alarm as people are free to walk in and out of the Learning Center, which attempts to create an open, minimal barriers, environment to make residents of the Downtown Eastside underclass feel comfortable. Rick saw the man stepping into Alkenbrack’s office but he thought Alkenbrack was in there.

Generally, Alkenbrack and the other teacher in the Learning Center, Lucy Alderson, keep the office door locked. “Every time Lucy came out of that office, I would see her with her keys in her hand locking up,” says one past Learning Center student. “I didn’t see Betsy
around as much; I don’t think she works there every day.”

The wallet got stolen just before welfare Wednesday, a time when many Downtown Eastside residents are flat broke.

This is not the first theft in the Learning Center. About six or eight months ago, a young man working for Vancouver Community Net was temporarily posted at the Carnegie Learning Center which has three VCN computers, along with three Vancouver Public Library computers. He had a nice laptop. But he wasn’t street smart at all. He would leave his laptop on the table and walk across the classroom and sit helping somebody at a computer — with his backed turned. Suddenly it was gone. The young man was traumatized. He never returned.

A couple of years ago, a new computer printer was delivered and before staff had a
chance to bolt it down, some body walked out the door with it.

On the positive side, the taxpayer is not being ripped off at the Carnegie Learning Center as often as they used to be. Learning Center staff who had been criticized for too often locking the doors of the Learning Center using the excuse that a volunteer hadn’t shown up, have kept the Center open every day during welfare week, generally one of the worst weeks for closures.


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